Kanchanaburi, Thailand

£1 = 53 Baht / $1 = 34 Baht
Situated approximately 150km west of Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is a laid-back, linear town nestled in the valley between emerald, mountainous national parks. The town is becoming increasingly popular with foreign visitors due to its richness in history, culture and nature which in recent times has put Kanchanaburi on the travellers bucket list.
We decided to bi-pass central Bangkok by taking a taxi directly from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Bangoks’s South bus terminal Sai Tai Mai. The taxi fair cost us 350 Baht (including toll roads, and the 50 Baht mandatory gratuity). As we were pushed for time we opted to take a cab, but a much more economical way of getting into central Bangkok is to take the Sky Rail which costs 40 Baht per person, and then taking a cab to the bus station which is less distance. Buses run from Said Tai Mai to Kanchanaburi every 20 minutes until 10pm departing from stand 10. The bus costs 110 Baht, but i’ve heard of it being cheaper so if you’re in the mood you might be able to haggle this.
Kanchanaburi is home to the iconic bridge over the river Kwai. The bridge and the ‘Death Railway’ were built by Malaysian, British, American and Indian military who were captured in South East Asia during WW2 by the Japanese. Forced to work in abysmal conditions and crippled by disease and starvation, the operation became a feat for those who survived the ordeal. There are many reminders of this event in history  for tourists to visit in Kanchanaburi which I highly recommend incorporating into your stay. To do this I suggest you rent push bicycles (50 Baht for 24 hours) and cycle to the War Cemetery (which is free to the public). Adjacent to the cemetery is the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre (entrance costing 160 Baht which includes a free hot beverage at the end), which offered a comprehensible account of the history of the railway – it’s a part of history that I was totally oblivious to, so I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. After the museum we cycled to the other end of town to the famous bridge. It’s a haunting piece of architecture knowing the suffering involved in its creation, but it’s in an incredibly picturesque location. You can walk across the bridge (free of charge), which is still used on the Bangkok to Nam Tok.
On the second day in Kanchanaburi (and last full day in the town), we headed to Erawan waterfalls. It was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had out of four visits to Thailand. Read my blog post on Erawan Waterfalls by clicking on this link: thetravellingtapir.wordpress.com/erawan-waterfalls.
After the waterfalls we had intended to take public transport to the Hellfire Pass Museum which is highly rated by anyone who visits it, and then return to Kanchanaburi by the Death Railway. Despite the fact that the Hellfire Museum is on the outskirts of the Erawan National Park, we discovered too late that you have to return to Kanchanaburi in order to get to the Hellfire Pass. Due to a lapse in our schedules we regretfully had to give the Death Railway a miss this time – but it’s not the end of the world as hopefully I’ll return to Kanchanaburi in the not so distant future.
As my partner has undergone dental treatment the day before our trip, our eating experiences were restricted to liquidated meals, which as a huge foodie is a rarity! There’s plenty of places to choose from when eating out or having a few bevvys (in fact there are loads of bars to choose from, which surprised me a little seeing as the town is so snoozy). We enjoyed cocktails at Friends Bar, playing pool and being served by a larger-than-life hostess who makes a mean mojito!
Kanchanaburi is definitely a destination that should be on your travel bucket list as it caters to pretty much everyone’s idea of fun: a melting pot of history, culture, relaxation, scenery, nature and partying. Kanchanaburi is a breath of fresh air – literally! It’s a pleasant and easy getaway from Bangkok and easily accessible from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. Make sure you drop if you find yourself in this corner of the world to see what all the fuss is about!

 

 

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Erawan Waterfalls, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

£1 = 53 Baht / $1 = 34 Baht
Kanchanaburi, west Thailand, is surrounded by several vast national parks which offer nature-enthusiasts and adventure-junkies plenty of choice when it comes to sourcing entertainment and activities. We had been highly recommended Erawan ‘falls through Twitter, Trip Advisor and by word of mouth, so we were keen to find out what all the fuss is about, and boy were we not disappointed!
Erawan waterfalls is approximately a 60km bus ride north-west of Kanchanaburi. The first bus to the waterfalls departs the Kanchanaburi bus station at 8:00 am, which I highly recommend taking in order to make the the most of excursion. The buses then depart on the hour and cost 50 baht each way – Note, the bus station is about 3km from where the majority of hotels/hostels are, but do not be tempted to catch the bus nearer your hotel as the bus leaves the Kanchanaburi bus station full. Therefore arriving at the bus stop at least 15 minutes prior to departure will guarantee yourself a seat, as some poor souls were lumped with standing up for a cramped 1.5 hour journey or an hour wait for the next bus!
Entering the park costs a mere 300 baht, which is certainly value for money. I was both impressed and surprised by how well established and organised the park was and also a little taken aback by how many people were flocking there. The waterfall is spread over 7 tiers which ascends for 2000m. The first tier is paved and incredibly accessible for all ages/abilities. I would say only the 7th tier is challenging as there are some steep steps and a couple of boulders to clamber over, but the rest is easily manageable for all ages.
The park is simply enchanting: the dense jungle with it’s wild bamboo and emerald foliage contrasts against the aquamarine waterfalls that pours into milky blue pools. The first, third and fourth waterfall attracts the largest crowds as they can accommodate the most swimmers and even have natural water slides.  But that’s not to say they are the best pools, as personally I preferred the sixth pool the most as it felt more like a secret lagoon. Most remarkably there are schools of fish which happily swim about – but be careful as the are rather partial to ‘kissing’ you which can take you by surprise (to my embarrassment I let out several yelps in shock)!
The highlight for the day was spotting a troop of wild forest monkeys. We hadn’t been told nor warned that we may see monkeys which made the trip all the more special. The monkeys meandered their way through the canopy anddidn’t seem in the least bit bothered by the people down below. We were fortunate enough to get very close to a mother and baby monkey on two occasions throughout our time in the park which really made the trip magical.
At the entrance to the park there is plenty of information about the national park as well as plenty of choice if you are looking for refreshments, as well a large number of stools selling souvenirs. The return buses to Kanchanaburi run a little less frequently than outbound, so it’s worth finding out before you start the climb what will be the most suitable time for your decent, again leaving plenty of time to ensure you get a seat.
This has hand on heart been the best experience I have had out of my four trips to Thailand, so I highly recommend ensuring this is part of your travel itinerary if visiting this part of Thailand.